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How CIOs Can Lead True Innovation

How CIOs Can Lead True Innovation

Simon La Fosse explains how technology leaders are uniquely placed to relieve CEOs from clichéd thinking and help bring about true innovation

We all get caught up in management speak don't we? Much as we like to think that we can rise above the slick phrases of the day they somehow leach into our vocabulary.

We've all laughed at the emails ridiculing their use but strangely they just seem to pop up in a sentence almost without permission. It's not dissimilar from using a cliche; we can't always avoid them because much of the time they're dealing with universal truths and happen to hit the mark.

New phrases seem somehow to be saying something new although of course they don't. But I do think they give a slight new energy to old ideas and that is why we continue to adopt them.

CEOs seem, in my experience, to largely avoid management speak. However they're not somehow immune to fashionable trends it's just that they tend to think in a slightly different way. While management thinks in the black and white of actions and imperatives, the CEO thinks in the colour of ideas and themes. Of course this doesn't allow them to avoid the accusation of cliched thinking as the options in many senses narrow the higher you climb. Let's face it, the CEO's job is simply about driving profitable growth and there are only so many levers to pull to achieve this.

Which brings us on to a theme that I hear many a CEO waxing lyrical about, and that's the subject of innovation. Not traditional incremental innovation in terms of different or better products and services, but the really big stuff. Innovation primarily in the context of the organisation's basic business model. Root and branch change. Challenging old assumptions, making some predictions about the shape of the future and thinking about re-engineering the organisation to meet this brave new world. And what's driving this?

The first driver is an increasing understanding that you can only squeeze so much out of the current status quo. Chances are that most competent organisations exploit their markets well; they operate efficiently in terms of both revenue generation and cost control. Outperforming the market with incremental change is looking like an increasingly marginal play. Intensified competition, escalating customer expectations and globalisation are all combining to ensure that 'best in class' is not really good enough. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of industrial and services conglomerate GE articulated it for all of us when he said: "constant re-invention is the central necessity... we're all just a moment away from commodity hell."

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